In December, Mashable founder Pete Cashmore wrote an article to explain “Why 2013 Is the Year of Responsive Web Design” and that certainly was the case at What’s Next DC earlier this month in Washington, D.C., where presenter after presenter mentioned it as a priority on their organization’s marketing agenda.
Responsive design is a big priority for AARP right now, said Sami Hassanyeh, the organization’s chief digital officer. “There are so many platforms and screen sizes. It’s tough to stay up-to-date with all of them.”
“You can’t understand your customer if you don’t know what they’re looking at,” said Tim McLaughlin, co-founder and CEO of SiteWorx, who shared the stage with Hassanyeh.
But responsive Web design isn’t enough, said Katrina Klier, Accenture’s managing director of global digital marketing and communications. Companies also need to employ responsive content design if they really want to reach and connect with their current and prospective customers — and most content these days isn’t responsive.
“Don’t forget your content. It’s the best story you have to tell people.”
The Sales Funnel is Dead
The traditional view of the sales process — the sales funnel — is a linear process that no longer stands up because the world of commerce isn’t linear anymore, said Klier. The mistaken idea that the sales funnel is the same as it always has been is the source of a lot of the tension between sales and marketing departments.
These days, the customer life cycle is nonstop and dynamic, she explained. It’s a continuity loop instead of a linear funnel.
Brand-controlled channels and the content they contain build customers’ expectations and make promises about what the brand will deliver. Instead of going through a salesperson to learn about a brand and its products, customers go online to explore the brand’s content and content created by other customers to discover the reality and how well the company delivers on its promises.
Where Customers are Creating and Consuming Content
Many brands have had a content wake-up call similar to the one Goldman Sachs had when it realized there were thousands of unofficial YouTube videos about it, said Klier.
When it comes to the need for responsive content design, Klier offered some statistics that might serve as a wake-up call to companies that haven’t had one of their own.
- In 2009 only about 2 percent of adults in the U.S. owned a tablet or an e-reader, now more than a third of them do.
- More than 10 percent of global internet traffic takes place through cell phones.
- Seventy-five percent of the world’s population has access to cell phones.
- Globally, active application users number over 1 billion now and are expected to grow to more than 2.1 billion by 2016.
- More than 40 percent of tweets come from mobile devices.
Research has also shown that not all mobile devices are used in the same way, said Klier. People use smartphones and tablets differently. While smartphones are used more for checking information quickly and brief communications such as texts, tablets are used more for e-mail, watching videos and consuming long-form written content.
The Basics of Responsive Content Design
With customers consuming content on a variety of devices, brands really need to think about how they design and push out their content to meet customers’ expectations, said Klier. Don’t worry, though, that you have to get there all at once. “It’s very much a journey to get to responsive content.”
First you need to retrofit your old-style content, then move to a hybrid model then finally you will get to truly responsive content design, she explained.
A brand’s core content is at the top of any responsive content design. You can think of it as an outline or table of contents, Klier said.
Once you have that core content in place, then you need to think about how to make that content responsive to people and the way they might want to use it. You should alter the editorial design — wording, style and tone — for different types of content and the different locations where you’ll place it online.
The visual design of your content is also important, as is the way you share it. You have to tell people about your content or they’ll never know it’s there, she said. “You want the content to come to people instead of them having to search for it.”
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